Review of The Care Home

carehomeThis is in some ways an ‘expose’ of the Care Home system, but that’s not its central purpose. It is every bit as much one man’s story of trying to make it as a writer.  It’s hard-edged, gritty and not for the faint hearted. It is unrelenting and uncompromising.  It’s also, dare I say it, a bit unfocussed.

A decade or more ago when I used to read TV/Film scripts professionally, I came across ‘drug’ stories all too frequently.  There are many ‘stoners’ who think that writing a story about their experiences will be a cool thing to do (presumably post Trainspotting they felt it was an emerging genre) and without exception what all of these scripts had in common is that they looked like they were written not just by a ‘stoner’ but by someone who was stoned while writing. And since I wasn’t stoned while reading, they really didn’t work for me. It’s that good old bad old myth about all great writers being substance abusing addicts at core (which Lee Carrick also alludes to) which seems to be behind all this.  I could counter this claim quite easily with a list of ‘great’ writers who never took to the bottle or the medicine cabinet, but that’s for a blog post, not a review.  What I will say though, is that writing about drugs culture is actually quite hard to do well. Neil Rushton achieves it in Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Lee Carrick shows some promise in this field.

Anyone reading this novella will be shocked by the way that the elderly are treated in the Care Home (and indeed should be shocked) and at times the narrator crosses the boundaries of reader sympathy through his own actions. Can we excuse him because of the ‘drug dependence’? I don’t think so.  For me that’s another example of the drug culture excusing its own bad behaviour and it’s a shame because in general one has great sympathy for the young Carrick (we can only assume that as it’s a first person narrative, this is autobiographical to an extent). But he treads a difficult line because he’s showing how callous the ‘system’ is while occasionally straying over the line  into callousness himself. The ‘fiction’ and ‘fact’ don’t sit easily together in this story.  But Carrick can certainly write.  His narrative choices are less successful.  He seems to position narrator and writer as one and that ‘character’ doesn’t gain my sympathy.  I think it’s a mistake, maybe a naïve one but for me it spoils what is otherwise a potentially really important story.  Stuart Ayris  A Cleansing of Souls covers abuse in a much more sophisticated way.  I’d recommend Carrick (and others) to read both Ayris and Rushton if they want to find out how to work in this ‘genre.’

While the rawness and immediacy of the story works quite well, I feel that there’s a more significant story waiting to get out there.  I don’t normally write reviews as if they are script reports but in this case I’m going to make an exception because I feel the writer warrants it.  For me, if The Care Home focussed less on the narrator/authors ‘drug’ experiences and more on the iniquities of what happens at The Care Home, it would be a much better read and reach a much wider audience (which is what the narrator/author claims to want to do).  There are plenty of writers who use their own experience to ‘shock’ but I think that if Carrick aims more at Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ than being influenced by the ‘greats’ who have relied on drugs for their inspiration, and in turn inspire the ‘stoner’ brigade to write self reflexive, self absorbed material of no interest to any but themselves;  he would stand more chance of achieving a work which can grace the shelves of a bookshop.  Although of course maybe he should get up to speed on that front too – maybe he’d rather write ebook niche fiction. It’s his choice. He needs to find his niche or target his market. It’s his choice.  The e-revolution has made all things possible. No one holds you back these days.  McStorytellers has published this novella and they are gaining quite a reputation for ‘giving voice’ to the previously ‘unvoiced.’  But it’s fundamentally the writers choice what he writes and where he ‘positions’ it in the new infinite ‘marketplace.’  And this is perhaps the crux of my dissatisfaction with The Care Home. The narrator/writer seems to aspire to entering the mainstream but perhaps only to stick two fingers up to it. This is an immature reason for writing and hopefully Carrick the writer will shift purpose and aim to write great fiction.  I guess what I’m saying is that if the narrator/writer shifted focus and wrote about what he could put a unique stamp on and was really interesting to the rest of us – the Care Home system – instead of diverting us with the juvenile ‘drugs’ life-experience of a writer (not original and not that interesting) then he might really have something.  It’s definitely worth a read, it gives a voice to a potentially up and coming writer – but it’s largely down to Carrick himself which way he goes from this point on. There’s plenty of ‘could have been a contender’ stories out there.  With this under his belt, he needs to move on and really engage with writing something of substance. In my opinion.  He’s lucky  in one respect.  Ten years ago I would have been paid £50 for such advice. Today, he’s got it for free!

The Care Home is available in Kindle (and paperback) formats.

Reviewing for Reading Between the Lines Collective smallREADING

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About callyphillips
Writer.

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